With Ballymacash Rangers the first visitors to The Showgrounds for the new season Newry were able to witness the step up in grade which awaits them in their first season in Mid Ulster Intermediate A from opponents who spent most of last season in the top quarter of the table. As for the match itself Newry’s cause was not helped on the quarter hour mark when they lost their captain Chris McMahon through injury. Indeed McMahon was fortunate not to have been badly injured in the incident which left his shin and ankle badly bruised but was not judged to have been worthy of a free kick by the match referee. The man in the middle did, however, get his next major decision correct when he awarded a penalty against Newry for a mistimed tackle which sent a Ballymacash forward sprawling over the end line from a position in which he was posing little danger to the Newry goal.
The Newry response to going a goal behind from the spot kick will have pleased manager Darren Mullen as his side pressed forward for the rest of the half. Kenny Kearns fired over from the edge of the box after being set up by Mark Patton and then Kearns floated a delightful diagonal ball over the defence into the path of Mark Lowry who got to the ball first but was unable to get enough power into his shot to trouble the keeper. Newry were now well on top but when a dubious offside call by the referee robbed McMullan of a chance for the equalizer it looked as if the half time whistle was going to come at the wrong time for the home side. However, the big man was not to be denied. Chris Fay laid the ball wide into the path of Paddy Magill who whipped over a high cross for which Patton challenged the keeper, the ball falling to McMullan who finished to the net to leave the half time score level.
Newry continued to probe after the break with Kearns and Lowry causing problems for the Ballymacash defence, Lowry paying the price for his trickery being subjeced to a series of late tackles by a stretched defence. However for all their pressure Newry never really looked like scoring and when they did get into dangerous positions the threat was ended with Newry players repeatedly adjudged to have roamed needlessly into offside positions. With 15 minutes left it looked as if Newry might be about to get on top when a Ballymacash defender was given a red card for yet another late tackle on Lowry. Alas, the breakthrough never came and Newry paid the highest price when they gave away a soft free kick just inside their own half and then allowed the Ballymacash centrehalf to move forward and get onto the end of the free kick to nod home and secure the three points for his team.
In a game where they often promised but never really got going best for Newry were Kenny Kearns, Mark Lowry and Sean McMullan.
Speaking after the game Newry manager Darren McMullan was in philosophical mood “Apart from the first 20 minutes of this game I thought we were the better team and had most of the possession but lacked a cutting edge. They were a good physical side and it was a good indication of what is ahead this season as they are one of the favourites for the league. Defensive errors cost us dearly in the end against 10 men and we are going to have to learn to make the most of our chances. It was an improvement on the Lower Maze performance and we will have to pick ourselves up for the next league game.
Newry City AFC: Murphy, O’Connor, Magill, McCaul, Donegan, Fay, Walker, McMahon, Patton, McMullan, Kearns. Subs: Lowry, Brilly, Edgar, Curran, Crilly.